By Graeme Cleland in the Dundee Courier
One of the leading candidates to become Dundee University rector has heavily criticised proposed cuts to the institution’s staff and courses to claw back a ‘1.6 million defecit.
Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has spoken out againt the plant that could see town planning and modern languages courses axed – along with up to 100 staff. Mr Murray echoed concerns raised by the UCU that an artificial financial crisis had been created by a campus development programme that has seen millions spent on new buildings.
“I am very worried about the university’s desire to cut staff and cut the languages department,” he said. “I’m not at all sure the financial situation justifies it.
“I have been studying the figures and we do not need job loses, and certainly not in courses where the university interacts with the community such as with modern languages.”
When announcing plans for cut-backs the university suggested there would be “significant cost reductions and efficiency improvements” affecting the library, the estates service and research and innovation services. The university is also planning to increase income from sources such as overseas students and postgraduate students to try to turn a 1% budget defecit (‘1.6 million) into a 3% surplus by 2010 to 2011. That will require a change in the difference between spending and income totalling ‘6.85 million
Mr Murray suggested excessive amounts of money had been spent on unneeded layers of bureaucracy and administration rather than university teaching resources. He said he also believed the large outlays on recent building programmes undertaken by the university distored its financial situation and were being used as an excuse to enforce changes.
“It seems there is no need for these cuts, and I velieve the reason they are being pursued is part of an agenda rather than financial prudence.
“Only the smallest restructuring of the university’s debt would make the savings required to meet the targets set”.
Staff, students and the UCU have already vented their anger. Many are worried the changes could affect the university’s links with the local community as well as hampering its ability to attract students. Staff and students are planning to fight the proposed cuts ahead of the February 19 university court meeting, which will decide on the way ahead.
However, university management have insisted the capital investment in buildings and equipment over the past four years has been fully justified. It also highlighted the fact research income was high but was not growing as quicky as it had, and its financial status was not sustainable for the long or medium term.